20 June -- Diary closed

THE NESTBOX DIARY will now have to be closed, I regret to say, as we clearly have a strange pair of youngsters who refuse to advertise their presence. I'm sure they're around, but because they keep silent -- at least when I'm around! -- it's been impossible to locate them.

I was out for 4 hours last night, from 11pm until 3am (BST), listening in the fields near where the fledglings and their parents were spotted by neighbours, now some ten days ago. I searched the length of the lane that bounds their territory in those parts, and on my way out listened over the eastern part of their territory. No luck.

One upshot is that I'll have to discard the suggestion, made earlier in the diary, that tawnies are inactive and/or silent at full moon as now is far from full moon, and during those 4 hours I heard not one tawny owl, however distant, in an area that's full of them! Possibly they do go quiet at full moon, but the explanation just now may be that after all the excitement since September, when territorial markouts begin, through the frenetic and often noisy activity of the breeding season just ended, the adult owls simply go quiet. A contributing reason could be that this is the time of the moult, and no bird feels too good when it's dropping feathers. Whatever, the level of calling has dropped dramatically.

It was the same in 2004. In about 25 hours of recordings of that pair of very noisy fledglings not one call from the parents is heard.

Actually it's a fuzzier situation than that as last night was quite breezy, with plenty of noise from the trees, which may have contributed to the owls sitting quiet for the night. As did other night birds -- for example I heard just one fussing episode from a Little Owl that lives to the south, a couple of calls from the unidentified night bird(s) I've mentioned before who live up in the woods, and one single churr from a Nightjar in Hemsted Forest. These would normally be churring away all night. Something about last night's weather seems to have kept everyone at quiet on their perch.

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So this year's diary has to end on an inconclusive note. I've no worries about the fledglings -- under the protection of their parents this must be the safest period of their lives and they are in a safe area.

Obviously if there is anything to report, or pics to post, it will be reported and posted here.

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Looking ahead

Just now we're thinking ahead to next year's nesting season and are investigating putting a video camera into the nestbox. It won't be possible to put a live feed on to the internet as the location is too remote. Instead we'd be putting up edited excerpts a day or so after the event. There's no question one would see and learn a whole lot more than from having recording equipment outside the box!

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Mid-August 2006

About two weeks ago we took the nestbox down after evicting the current resident -- a Grey Squirrel. Poor thing, she'd obviously spent days doing a total refurbishment, and once again I had to tip out half a sackful of beech twigs and shredded dried leaves. Luckily no babies. She lives locally and I saw her quite often when camping under the owls. The box is in excellent shape apart from small holes chewed through the roofing felt at the top corners.

The owl parents have been heard in the woods by separate observers -- the guy who keeps guinea fowl nearby and a party of scouts who camped in the field at the top end of the big oak wood. I haven't been out meself at night, I must admit, so it's good to have recent news of them. No news specifically of the children though, who must be quite grown up if they're still around.

I did hear a female who's likely to be the Pine Nest female outside my bedroom window in late July. If you haven't spotted the recording it's in the Scrapbook, page 5, at the bottom. We haven't heard from the male, though things have been quiet tawnywise over the summer. In fact there's been very little bird song altogether, probably because of the hot weather.

26 November 2006 -- nestbox cameras for 2007

Our main nestbox now has a black and white infrared camera, I'm putting two cameras in another nestbox, one black and white for night use and the other colour for daytime. This second box will be put up for the pine nest owls. The cable link from a broadband line to the pine nest owls' box would be about 100 m, so theoretically a live webcam is a possibility.

Nestbox Diary 2008

19 March 2008 and they're back after a gap of two years, so this is the page to go